Despite the season starting a week ago, and a few teams playing competitive matches since mid-February, the rumours do not go to sleep with the Marc Dos Santos Whitecaps, as a few more names are rumored to be coming in. Much has been made of the offseason so far, where the Caps completely overhauled their roster, bringing in 15+ new players of varying levels of experience. With the generous windfall provided by Bavarian giants Bayern Munich due to the transfer of one Alphonso Davies, along with a new coach looking to make his mark, they have not been shy to pursue talent. While previous offseasons would generate some excitement, there were more Brek Shea’s, Efrain Juarez’s and Fraser Aird’s coming into the Caps than there were Raul Ruidiaz’s, Romain Alessandrini’s and Darwin Quintero Jr’s.
This is not to take a shot at outgoing manager Carl Robinson, who often relied on bargain bin spending to populate his relatively successful outfits, nor management, who are looking to keep their books balanced as they compete in a parity filled league, but it feels nice to see us start to have ambitions that are falling more in lines with some of the bigger clubs in the league. We do not have to spend horrendous amounts on aging european superstars that benefit from the power their names carry, but opening up the pockets to acquire talents that are from top leagues such as Serie A, La Liga and Superliga Argentina is a breath of fresh air for fans in a market clamouring for bigger and better signings.
While some in the fanbase may not be truly satisfied until Lionel Messi dons the Caps hoop jersey, we can look to the quality brought in and be happy. We brought in a lot of talents at various stages of their development, but most of them appear to have the pedigree necessary to compete in this league. As evidenced by the guys brought in by the likes of Toronto, Atlanta, New York Red Bulls, Seattle, Portland and Kansas over the years, they are the kind of guys that should get you success in such a parity-filled competition. The best part of it all? The players were brought in with a plan and a purpose, as Dos Santos actively pursued guys he believed can fit a philosophy and a style of play that he will look to employ, giving the Caps talent that should actually live up to potential for the most part. The downfall of Robinson was that many signings held him back due to not fitting in with what he needed, leaving many cases of Anthony Blondells for every Kei Kamara or Matias Laba style signing he pulled off.
While there will be debate on how Robinson would have fared with a similar windfall as the one Davies provided, Dos Santos and his team have appeared perfect to handle the money, bringing in signings at various age levels and using their MLS mechanisms to allow for a solid roster construction. They have brought in veterans that can help out on and off the field, guys in their prime looking for a new opportunity or a fresh start, young guys who are longer term projects and young guys who can provide value now and for a few years, whether or not they stay around or are sold on. On top of that, Dos Santos left some flexiblity, allowing for some things to materialize as they saw fit. There is still some room left to bring some quality players in, as one DP spot is open as well as a couple of TAM spots, giving them a chance to bring in some more players as the season goes on.
It’s these potential TAM players generating excitement in the city the last few days, with the Caps being linked to Moroccan international Oussama Tannane and Iraqi International Ali Adnan. It would be a big coup for the Caps, as they are both 24/25, both play in top leagues with Tannane playing in the Eredivisie and Adnan in Serie A, and they would both fill positions of need for the club. Tannane would be an interesting signing, as his value has likely dropped due to issues with an incident in his current loan spell in the Eredivisie, but at 24 he is an exciting player nonetheless. He would add to the Caps crew of tricky wingers, adding a playmaker to the likes of Yordy Reyna, Lass Bangoura and Lucas Venuto. Adnan would be the huge coup, as he would likely turn the left back position from one of the weakest on the team to one of the strongest. He appears to be available because of a complicated third party ownership situation, like one of the another signings brought in, Joaquin Ardaiz. Like Ardaiz, it would allow the Caps to get a good player at a cheaper price, allowing them more flexibility for a possible DP signing in the summer.
Tannane is another one of many prominent Moroccan players plying his trade in the Netherlands, alongside others such as Hakim Ziyech and Oussama Idrini. He is left footed, and appears to be a strong playmaker, which should aid the MDS passing system. He has performed at similar levels as Venuto and Bangoura have in their leagues, so he should fit in well with alongside them as they compete for minutes. His situation will allow MDS to ease him in as well, as coming off missing a decent chunk of games due to suspension will require him to get back up to speed and clear his head before he gets much game time. It would also allow the Caps to be 2 deep at the winger position, allowing for rotation and injuries without too much of a concern in terms of a quality drop-off
Adnan is the more intriguing of the two, having plyed his trade in Serie A the last 4 years. His playing time has fallen off lately, as he has rarely played at Atalanta on loan from Udinese, where he also struggled to get game time the last year. Despite that, he picked up 68 matches in the competition over the 4 years, providing him with solid experience that Caps fans should be excited for. He also features regularly for his national team in Iraq, with nearly 60 caps to his name with them. Even with all that experience, he is still at the ripe age of 25 and heading to MLS would provide him with an opportunity in a league that has done wonders for fellow Iraqi international Justin Meram. He is a very solid defender, and was a fan-favourite in Udinese before he lost his starting spot last season. He is capable going forward as well, with a good left foot and decent dribbling ability. His arrival would answer a lot of questions for a backline that had many people questioning how it would fare after collapsing last season. After seeing the strong performances of Doneil Henry and Erik Godoy in the match against Minnesota, it appears the centre back position will be a lot tighter than that afformented season, so along with the addition of Adnan and the bounceback of Jake Nerwinski, they can make their defensive line one to fear once again for opponents. They can return to a heydey where opponents dreaded coming up against Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston and Nerwinski, as they were one of the top defensive teams in the league.
These signings are intriguing in many ways, but the best takeaway from it is the ambition that the club is now showing. Even though there are many built in excuses to not strengthen the left back positions in light of the Levis injury, they are using their cash and going after a name that most MLS rosters would be glad to have, as evidenced by a lot of the reaction online to the rumours of him moving to an unnamed MLS team (Likely the Caps). In a window where we have been linked to other prime talents such as Sardar Azmoun and Kolbein Sigthorsson, it has allowed for fans to have optimism and make rumour season fun again, instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching rivals bring in important players as they played in the scrap heap. The scrap heap has produced some solid players for us, but to compete in MLS 3.0 you need to be aggressive with your signings and the Caps have definitely done that this window.
With every passing day, it also gives confidence to how the Caps pursue that 3rd DP, which will be something that will start to come up closer to the summer. Due to many big leagues around the world being on a winter calendar, it means most big talents are usually available in the summertime. Some big names have moved to the league in that period the last few seasons, with names such as Wayne Rooney, Nico Lodeiro, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic making their way over in the months of April, May, June and July as their campaigns in other leagues finished up. As seen with the Seattle Sounders the last few seasons, a big addition at the right time can help a team really needing that final piece, vaulting their club to playoff success the last few seasons despite constantly starting slow. The way it looks right now for the Caps is that they will start the season slow, start to pick it up as Adnan and Tannane settle in along with the other new guys, and push upwards once a third DP is acquired. It is entirely possible that Dos Santos decides to hold off pursuing one based on how things are when it comes up, but whatever the outcome ends up being he has given a lot of reason for us to trust the process and enjoy the rumour mill as the season goes along.